Do wood based mulches attract termites?
A question we occasionally encounter at scott flanagan landscape is do wood based mulches attract termites, carpenter ants or other pests? Research has proven the answer to be no. A few ways that mulch plays a crucial role in the health of your landscaping is by keeping the soil surface cool and increasing moisture retention. This environment is also conducive to already established pests but in no way attracts them. Wood chip mulch is not a preferable food source and in fact, studies show that survivorship is very low when this is the main food source for termites. Carpenter ants nest in tunnels in larger structures of wood such as decayed stumps or firewood, not in wood chip mulch. It is a common misperception that inorganic mulches such as pea gravel or stone are a better alternative against destructive insects. Interestingly, a 2001 study comparing termite activity under various mulches found that pea gravel mulch had higher activity than hardwood or pine bark mulches (see reference below). Bottom line: if you already have termites or carpenter ants they will find the moderating environmental effects of mulch attractive, but if they are not already established, using mulch does not increase your chances of an infestation. A common sense safeguard for any type of mulch is to avoid piling it up next to the foundation of your home. Keeping a thinner layer (under 2”) of mulch near the perimeter of the foundation will allow the soil to dry and discourage pests. Ideally, your siding should not be less than six inches above the soil line. Mulch is such an important part of a healthy landscape and should not be avoided based on unfounded fears! To read about the many benefits of mulch, check out this article ***** Written by: Nicole Gear Horticulturist and Office Manager scott flanagan landscape 2011 – present Reference http://ee.oxfordjournals.org/content/30/5/832